Uganda’s top court paved the way Thursday for the country’s 74-year-old leader Yoweri Museveni to seek a sixth term in office, upholding a ruling to scrap presidential age limits. 

The Supreme Court dismissed a challenge by Museveni’s opponents, who had appealed against a constitutional court ruling that removed an age cap of 75 for presidential contenders.

“This appeal therefore fails,” Chief Justice Bart Katureebe declared in handing down the court’s majority 4-3 verdict. The decision allows Museveni who has ruled Uganda since seizing power at the head of a rebel army in 1986 to seek re-election in polls due in 2021. Attorney General Mwesigwa Rukutana declared the verdict “a big win for Uganda”.

“We are elated. This is a sign of how democracy has taken root in our country,” he told AFP. But a lawyer for the petitioners, Erias Lukwago, said “it is democracy that suffers”. “It is a disappointment, but in Africa it is a miracle to win (against) a sitting government,” he told AFP.

Observers had expected a ruling in Museveni’s favour, but the narrow margin came as a surprise. “The ruling was so close. Museveni will take a lesson from it,” said Kassim Male Mabirizi, an activist from the Uganda Law Society and one of the main petitioners. A bill removing presidential age limits was signed into law in December 2017 after a chaotic passage through parliament that saw MPs engaging in fisticuffs. 
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